PALMETTO -- The Green Bridge Fishing pier was full of families Saturday morning, as children participated in the annual Jerry Hill Memorial Kids Fishing Tournament
Children and their parents crowded the pier, and the catches ranged from the dogfish to flounder, snapper and even a stingray.
For Haley McKitterick, 9, Saturday was a first of firsts.
Her dad recently got her into fishing and brought her and her sister to the tournament.
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"What I like is you never know what you're going to catch," Haley said. "It's a surprise."
For J.C. McKitterick, fishing with his girls was all about bonding with them, and his girls weren't the only ones that came along.
"They each had a friend sleep over, and I said, "Sure but if they sleep over, they're coming fishing, too," he said.
It wasn't a first time fishing for Jade Simons, 13, who reelied in a dogfish near the end of the competition.
"I almost gave up, but then in the last 10 minutes, I got one," she said.
Jade likes fishing with her dad often, she said. For her, it was also the surprise of not knowing what you are going to pull in.
"It's kind of fun; you think you aren't going to catch anything, and then -- surprise! -- you do," Jade said.
The 13-year-old added that her family had started telling her that she was jinxed since she never caught anything.
"They used to call me 'J.J.,' for 'Jadi-Jinx,'" she said.
She smiled when she realized that her bad streak was over.
The 29th annual tournament was renamed several years ago in honor of former Bradenton Herald outdoors writer Jerry Hill, who had passed away. Hill used to call the tournament the "Dogfish Classic" because of all the small dogfish that are traditionally caught.
Terrri Wonder, board member for Manatee Fish and Game Association, was all smiles as she watched the children with their families, pleased with the turnout.
"We had more people this year than last year," she said. "So the contest keeps growing each year."
Children ages 5 to 14 participated in the catch-and-
"It's been a wonderful morning, from bait-cutting at first light, right through the contest," Wonder said. "This is a wonderful way to start the summer."
The tournament was started as a way to interest children in fishing.
"This is all about Old Florida, loving it and protecting it," Wonder said.
After a morning in the beating sun working hard at catching some fish, families were served lunch before the announcement of the day's big winners.
Kenneth Lingle and his mom, Michelle Lingle, grabbed a couple hot dogs.
Kenneth said he hadn't caught anything, but it didn't stop him from having a good time.
"No, but I almost caught a stingray," he said.
It was a first time competing in the annual tournament for the Braden River Middle School student.
"We got people from the school and we thought it would be a fun activity," his mom said.
She said she spent the time reading a book, while the kids fished.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.